Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Review: Cure - A Journey into the Science of Mind Over Body

The author of Cure, Jo Marchant, comes with a ton of credentials, essential because of the credibility required to cover the topic.

The first few chapters explore the placebo effect. Impressively, even placebos that are labeled placebos work --- and the more expensive the better. Then she covers more innovative approaches, such as using immersive virtual reality for pain reduction, and various approaches combining cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness.

All of these approaches however, only work on issues where pain perception or the illness (such as chronic fatigue syndrome) is largely psychological. Marchant acknowledges for serious diseases (such as cancer), there's no question that approaches such as homeopathy, etc., will not work purely on a "mind over body" basis, and are in fact, harmful if they prevent the patient from seeking real medicine.

While an interesting and entertaining book, I'm not sure I got a lot out of it. It's very clear that all research in mind over body has quite a ways to go, but the lack of easy studies (it's tough to do double-blind between people who do mindfulness and people who don't, for instance) mean that if you're a skeptic, the evidence is not quite compelling as yet.

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